It’s always fun to watch someone repair something that looks beyond the point of fixing. It takes vision, creativity, and some serious craftsmanship. An this is what’s on display at The Small Workshop (TSW) YouTube channel. Man, what they can do is just crazy!

The channel features homemade tools and workshop projects specializing in wood and metal, with some of the biggest draws being their restoration videos. They focus on taking really old, severely rusted tools and bringing them back to life.

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This antique rusty knife restoration video is no exception. After finding a rusty knife near his grandfather’s hundred-year-old house, TSW decided to take it home and dive into another restoration project with the aim to transform the hunk of rust into a wood carving knife.

1. Rust Removal

antique rusty knife restoration

You could say this knife is more rust than metal. With each blow of the hammer slag-like chunks of rust fly off. His aim in this step of the process is to unearth the good metal. When the hammering and scraping were done it was obvious the former glory of the knife was gone and but the new was set to emerge.

It’s at the belt sander where his vision for the size and shape of the carving knife becomes apparent. TSW with the skill of a seasoned craftsman, ground, filed and sanded away metal in just the right places to fashion his new mini carving blade.

After investing a bunch of hours his polishing step is what makes everything sparkle. The contrast of the pitted area in combination with the smoothly sanded ones makes for a nice visual texture.

2. Normalize The Blade

antique rusty knife restoration

The formation of rust over time causes the metal to be brittle, so experience says a heat-treating step will be necessary. TSW uses a blowtorch and does two separate normalizing cycles to make the metal more uniform. After heating the knife once, he leaves it to cool before returning two hours later to do another pass.

3. Quench The Blade In Olive Oil

antique rusty knife restoration

With the normalization finished, he chips off some more rust on the blade before finely shaping it and quenching the blade in olive oil. This hardens the metal and minimizes the chance of it cracking and breaking.

4. Carve Out A Custom Handle

At this stage of the restoration, TSW turns his attention to making a custom handle. To complement the age and weathered characteristics of the blade, TSW chose a giant weathered log. As it turns out, this chunk of wood that was originally a part of his grandfather’s house. Neat!

The collection of old-school and modern tools and steps his uses is fascinating to watch! In his first step, TSW makes uses of a traditional tool, a wood splitting froe, to shave off the chunk of wood he will use for the handle.

After cutting the log into a workable piece, he takes it to his lathe to turn the handle. He roughs out the handle’s general shape and makes sure to drill a proper size hole to fit the blade shank into.

antique rusty knife restoration
antique rusty knife restoration

To give the handle a bit of décor, he twists two strands of brass wire together and wraps it around the handle to create a rope motif. The brass roping is seated and secured in place in the small offset crevice turned on the lathe. Each end is inserted in a small pilot hole and hammered in place. Cyanoacrylate glue, woodchips and a final turning step secures the braid in place and makes it flush with the handle for a nice blended look!

5. Combine The Handle and Blade

antique rusty knife restoration

The final step is to join the blade to the handle. TSW used a healthy dose of epoxy, to securely hold the blade in place. The remaining rust is minimal and mostly cosmetic.

antique rusty knife restoration

With the edge now set and honed sharp the blade is ready for uses to carve wood, open letters, and the like. You wouldn’t want to do any heavy duty cutting with this blade, but the point of this restoration project was to bring out a useable blade from a heap of rust and corrosion.

If you like watching rusty tool restoration videos and finding new tricks to incorporate into your woodworking (like mixing shavings into the wire of the handle, pretty cool!), The Small Workshop YouTube channel has all of that and more.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.